Ethiopian and Somali troops seized a town in Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab militants who fled after battles with troops, residents said Thursday.
“The Ethiopian troops have arrived in the town now, and al-Shabaab left last night,” Mohamed Mudey, a resident in Hudur, said by phone.
Hudur is the administrative headquarters of Bakool region. The town has served as a training base for the militant group al-Shabaab.
The fall of Hudur is a big blow to the al-Qaida-linked group’s control of southern Somalia.
Al-Shabaab confirmed the withdrawal, saying its forces made a tactical retreat.
“Our mujahedeen forces have made a tactical retreat from Hudur as part of the plan to disable the enemy in guerrilla warfare,” the group said in a statement on their website Thursday.
Al-Shabaab has increased its use of suicide and roadside bomb attacks since it was forced out of Mogadishu last year by African Union troops. Troops from Ethiopia are attacking al-Shabaab from the west, while Kenyan forces are attacking from the south. Al-Shabaab still plagues wide tracts of southern and central Somalia, but faces mounting pressure from Ethiopian and African Union troops.
Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991, when long-term dictator Siad Barre was overthrown by warlords who then turned on each other.